Leicestershire: Rivers and canals and woods as well

Swithland Woods, oil on paper, plein air painting, one of the woods and trees series.

I tend to work in series. I like to look at places through the seasons, seeing the changing light and weather; the gorgeous dark skies of autumn with flashes of golden light, the cool fresh bright light of spring or the cool grey light of winter with its skeletal trees - summer isn't always as interesting somehow. When the sky is blue and the trees are dense with foliage the landscape isn't quite as interesting, very green green green, though working at the coast when it's warm is a very pleasant thing to do!

Ongoing series are about the coast from Old Hunstanton to Wells next the Sea in Norfolk, local woods and landscape and Flowers-up-close-and-personal.

I've decided to start another project as well, also on the local area, and asked 3 friends, Ros, Glen and Maggie, to join with me. We'll work plein air - sometimes all 4 of us - other times alone or whoever can make it that day. It will be a long term project as I've got a lot of other things on the go as well.

I want to look at our local river, the River Soar. It isn't a long river. It pretty much rises in the county or just outside and joins another river on the edge of the county. So, unlike Kurt Jackson I can't follow it to the sea, sadly. We have a canal that crosses the county, the Grand Union Canal, which has an interesting history and criss crosses the Soar, sometimes the boats travel along the Soar for a while before the canal splits away again. So, it isn't really possible to separate them. I intend to include the canal - it also means being able to incorporate some other interesting areas to paint. The Grand Union Canal goes to London eventually and has history worth researching further.

The plein air work will lead on to studio paintings where I can play with images and media, working larger. We hope eventually to have a joint exhibition - but as I said, it's going to be a long term project as we all have other committments.

The river and canal travel through such a wide variety of landscape - the canal has locks - a huge flight of locks at Foxton - flat flood plain, under old bridges, through industrial landscapes and tumbledown Victorian factories and parks. The river the same again but with ancient packhorse bridges with parts build in 12C, through meadows and pretty villages - the variety will be fascinating. Then there are reflections and the light on water to play with :>)

I've done a lot of research and found fascinating stuff about the history, traditions, myths, geology and wildlife of our river and canal. Some of this I hope to weave into the final canvasses.
King Richard III was thrown into the river here after losing the Battle of Bosworth - or was he? legend has it that the Greyfriars rescued the body and buried it in their grounds (near the river). There is a field with ley lines, where the hay was carried in a straight line following the ley line in an ancient ritual, there are standing stones and megaliths (I hadn't know there were so many here, associating them more with Celtic areas), there are Roman remains, Viking words in the origin of village names, medieval bridges, tales of disaster - all sorts!

Ros, Glen and I have all done some sketching by the river and canal before but never as part of a bigger scheme, or together, or involving any research. Though we've painted elsewhere often - these woods were a day out together and we've also painted at the coast together.

Even my father got in on the act - sorting out and donating some large scale, quite old, ordnance survey maps for me, to help me know exactly where we can get down to the river, where there are footpaths and help to find the exact position of its 4 sources ..... I just love maps anyway!!! :>)

Ros and her husband have a narrowboat so I'm sure she'll have canal maps that we can study as well.

I'm really looking forward to it :>) - I've got a lot on though so it may be a few weeks before I can make a start - it's the time of year for several local shows, the Neptune Gallery at the coast reopens for the season (she has a break from Christmas to Easter), a group show at a local gallery with friends (including Glen and Ros) and a gallery in Derbyshire contacted me wanting some of the Time and Tide series for July.

Working with friends will be good - there will be feedback and crit, sharing of ideas, venues and knowledge and we'll gee each other on - and a joint exhibition would be great. Once the project is well on its way we can contact our galleries to inform them and possibly arrange a future date - that would also give us a target to work to. One local organisation I contacted for information asked if we would let them put our work on their website - which would be nice and a bit of extra advertising as well :>)

My membership is due for renewal at the Print Workshop but I think painting is a priority at the moment so I shan't renew until I feel I can get in and use it. I'm still wanting a small printing press of my own when I can afford one. It would be so good to have one here just when I want. Any rich sponsor out there???? :>)

Swithland Woods oil on paper, plein air, the edge of the woods looking out into the light


MrsSnowy said…
Your woods and trees are delightful, Vivien not to mention good! I love the depth in your paintings - as though I'm looking through a hole in my screen out into the woods.

Good luck with your Leicestershire challenge - it will be a treat to follow your journey.
vivien said…
thanks :)

I'm looking forward to it
Katherine said…
Lovely paintings Vivien - I adore those colours!

That's a really nice idea - doing a theme together. You also get the opportunity to have the different takes on the same subject which is what I always find fascinating about painting holidays. Put 10 people down in front of the same subject and they come up with 10 different paintings.
vivien said…
Thanks Katherine - it was a lovely day, sitting there in the edge of the woods on a very hot day, looking out into the sunshine - sigh - seems a long time ago!

Yes, we all have very very different styles and ways of looking - when we looked at flowers together Ros looked at the wide view, Glen closed in on a clump of flowers and I zoomed in on a section of just one! We also abstract quite differently so it should be really good.

I hope your project is going well?

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